Parramatta River, Sydney, NSW

Gladsville Bridge across the Parramatta River

The RiverCat pulls into the Parramatta ferry terminal

Abbotsford wharf

Hunters Hill and Woolwich peninsula - Clarkes Point and Woolwich Dock (foreground); Parramatta River (left); Lane Cove river (right)

Lennox Bridge, Parramatta

Mortlake car and passenger ferry

All visitors to sydney know about Sydney Harbour, but few know about the Parramatta River, which flows into it. The Parramatta River, along with Sydney Harbour, is the most significant waterway in Sydney. Since settlement, the river and the harbour have presented a formidable barrier to development north of the waterway - it literally cuts Sydney in half. As a result, the many crossings are extremely important to the life of the City.

Parramatta River by ferry: an enjoyable way to experience the many interesting features to be found along the river between the cities of Sydney and Parramatta is a ride on the RiverCat ferry. Ferries leave regularly throughout the day from Circular Quay, which is Sydney's major transport hub. Over 30 services operate in each direction every day of the week from Circular Quay's Wharf No.5. The ferry stops at numerous sububan wharves, including Birchgrove, Cockaoo Island, Meadowbank and Olympic Park, Homebush. The journey, which takes one hour, is an integral part of a half day or full day trip to Parramatta. You can either return to Sydney by ferry or take the train through Sydney's inner western suburbs.
A self guided tour about the bridges across the Parramatta River, prepared by the Institute of Engineers Australia Sydney Division Engineering Heritage Committee, provides interesting information for travellers on the RiverCat.
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Foreshore walks and cycleways: Much of the foreshore is still in the hands of industry and private individuals as residences, however there is an increasing amount of waterfront land available as foreshore reserve with walkways and cycleways. As former industrial sites undergo remediation and redevelopment, the foreshores are opened up for public access. Where there is no foreshore access, cycleways are routed through quiet residential streets with clearly marked sections of the road reserved for cyclists.

Parramatta: The original market gardens for European settlement, Parramatta holds a special place in Sydney's history. Historic buildings blend comfortably with the city environment of Parramatta, Elizabeth Farm and Government House. Parramatta Visitor Information Centre >>

About the river: the Parramatta River is the main tributary of Sydney Harbour, a branch of Port Jackson, along with the smaller Lane Cove and Duck Rivers. The river begins at confluence of Toongabbie Creek and Darling Mills Creek west of Parramatta and travels in an easterly direction to a line between Greenwich Point, Greenwich, and Robinsons Point, Birchgrove. Here it flows into Port Jackson, still about 21 km from the ocean.
Parramatta River is tidal to Charles Street Weir in Parramatta, approximately 30 km from Sydney Heads.
There are significant stands of mangroves along the river west of Henley (on the North shore) and Mortlake (on the southern shore) and in the Lane Cove River. The mangroves have actually colonised areas that were previously salt marsh. Research into historical drawings and writings indicates that the mangroves were far fewer at English colonisation. Council information panels in Glades Bay explain that the bay's now extensive mangrove stands would once have been open water, sandy beaches and outcrops of rock. Land clearing and development has allowed soil and various nutrients to be washed into the river. This has provided an ideal environment for mangroves to colonise.
Many areas of the river, particularly the swampy heads of bays, have been reclaimed, often being used as rubbish dumps before being converted into playing fields. Large sections of Meadowbank Park were created in this manner. Some industrial sites were also reclaimed heavily from the river, particularly in Homebush Bay. Most creeks leading into the bays have been channelised (lined with concrete walls and floor).

Greenwich foreshore

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